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Switzerland:  cherry blossom
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Switzerland: Baselbiet

Baselbiet Augusta Raurica Liestal Fire Festival Cherry Blossom Time Rheinfelden (AG) Dornach (SO) Goetheanum
Liestal Fire Festival

 

The canton of Basel-Land (and a bit of the neighbouring cantons), mostly peacefully rural, with towns settled in Roman times, and still thriving today and a fantastic Fire Festival.

Baselbiet

Baselbiet
Basel Landschaft, looking north to the city and west to France. from the Gempen viewpoint, which is just over the cantonal border in Solothurn.
Muttenz
The flag of Basel-Landschaft (though the wind has reversed it) on the tower of the church of St Abrogast in Muttenz.

Baselbiet is the local name for the canton of Basel-Landschaft in the north west of Switzerland. It shares borders with France and Germany, the latter being defined by the River Rhine which turns north at the city to form the border between France and Germany.

Baselbiet
Basel Landschaft, looking south from the Gempen viewpoint.
Basel city flag
The black crosier of the Basel city flag.

Traditionally this is an agricultural region which, until the eighteenth century, was dependant on the city. It was only in 1832, after decades of unrest, that the half-canton of Basel-Landschaft was created, separate from the half canton of the city.1 The canton took the bishop's black crosier flag of the city, reversed it and coloured it red as their own.

It seems even the smallest of villages had their castles, and their ruins are dotted all over the landscape, usually, of course, on a height commanding a view of a valley.

Pfeffingen castle
Pfeffingen castle.
Baselbiet
Baselbiet
Baselbiet vineyards.
Muttenz
Swiss National Day celebrations in Muttenz, 1991.
Baselbiet
Schloss Birseck, Arlesheim.

 

Today it is still very much a rural location, with forested hills, the river Birs running through it and a good deal of agriculture, there are even grape vines and long-established cherry orchards. Nowadays the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are a major force in the region.

 

Pfeffingen castle
Pfeffingen castle.
Muttenz
Swiss National Day celebrations in Muttenz, 1991.
Muenchenstein winter snow
Münchenstein.
Easy to grow tomatoes outdoors.

 

Having lived in both Muttenz and Münchenstein we have been quite close to the countryside.

Muttenz is interesting. It is a village based on agricultural activity with an unusual battlemented walled church precinct. The Romanesque buildings were rebuilt after the earthquake of 1356.2 Today's church dates from the early fifteenth century. We were living here in 1991 when Switzerland celebrated the 700 year anniversary of the formation of the Swiss Confederation on August 1st; there was a huge outdoor communal feast with food, beer and wine and entertainment in the form of Alphorns, yodellers, school gymnastics and fireworks - all satisfyingly Swiss.

In Münchenstein we live on a hillside above the old part of town and its ruined castle, with forests behind us and a beautiful farm within walking distance. The farmer used to bring half a dozen of his honey-coloured cows to graze the parcels of land which weren't built on - they could make very short work of waist-high grass. But in recent years there has been much building on these meadows and I'm not sure it's worth his while any more to do it.

It was lovely to hear the cow bells so close.

Muenchenstein
The farm near our house, Münchenstein.
MuttenzTrotting races at Schänzli, 1991.
Muenchenstein

 

Muenchenstein
We've had more than one deer come into the garden in Münchenstein.
Muenchenstein

 

Muenchenstein winter snow
However much snow we get, the snow ploughs always work to keep the roads clear from early morning.
Muenchenstein winter snow
Münchenstein December 2008.
Steps to be cleared!
Muenchenstein
Münchenstein Xmas Market
Muenchenstein winter snow
Münchenstein December 2008.
We don't seem to get as much snow as this any more, recently hardly any at all.
Muenchenstein winter snow
Münchenstein December 2008.
Muenchenstein
Muenchenstein
Muenchenstein
Muenchenstein
Muenchenstein winter snow
Münchenstein December 2008.
This beautiful tree was uprooted when houses were built on this piece of land.

 

Muenchenstein
We get magnificent sunsets in Münchenstein and a great view from the house.

Muenchenstein

Muenchenstein

Muenchenstein

 

Augusta Raurica

Augusta Raurica
The theatre.

 

The region has a long history2,3,4 with a Celtic tribe, the Raurici, widely settled here, including Raurici on a hill in what was to become Basel city.5 The Romans favoured the site for its location at the crossroads of major trade routes with a colony established in 44BC, and substantial remains of the Roman capital of the region, Augusta Raurica, dating from 15BC, are located about 20km east of the city on the Rhine.

 

Augusta Raurica
Inside the theatre.
Augusta Raurica
Inside the museum showing some of the silver treasure.
Augusta Raurica
Imperial gifts of gold and silver coins were presented in simple silver bowls.
300-350 AD
Augusta Raurica
The "Ariadne" dish, detail below, showing Ariadne with Dionysus and a satyr. The dish is the most richly decorated item in the silver treasure.

300-350AD
Augusta Raurica
Augusta Raurica
Lower floor of a two storey shop, workshop and living quarters with baking oven and fireplace.

The theatre at the main site is the best preserved Roman theatre north of the Alps and could hold 8,000 spectators. There is also a very interesting museum and nearby the remains of a two storey building built around 50 AD which burnt down around 260/270. Luckily for the archaeologists, much was preserved, including a baking oven and fireplace on the lower floor, used for cooking and baking. People may also have purchased food here. The lower floor also served as a workshop and living space with a household shrine holding protective deities: two Mercuries, a Minerva and a dwarf. Substantial quantities of crockery were found on the upper floor, along with weapon parts and tools. It is thought that this was an artesan's storeroom and workshop.

The museum is the proud holder of a Roman silver treasure, comprising 270 objects, the most important collection of late antique silver in the world.

Augusta Raurica
Decoration in the centre of a huge silver dish showing an opulent villa by the sea and fishing scenes.
300-350 AD

Not far away on the Rhine are the remains of thermal baths, though these are not very extensive.

Augusta Raurica
Remains of the hypocaust heating system at the thermal baths. Hot air circulated in the spaces between tile stacks heating the floor above. Hot air could also be circulated through cavities in walls.

 

Liestal Fire Festival

Liestal
Obertor (outer), Liestal, 13th c.

Liestal is the capital of Basel-Land and itself has a long history. It was officially founded in the 13th century but had been important since Roman times.3

Liestal has a terrific Fire Festival early in the year, just before Basel's Fasnacht. We first went in 2008. Crowds line the streets and when it is dark the fire carriers walk or trot through Obertor into the town, carrying flaming baskets and torches and dragging flaming carts. It is really quite impressive and very hot, if it's windy sparks are flying everywhere. We went again in 2010 but the crowds were so huge that it was difficult to get a good view.

Liestal
Fire-carriers coming through Obertor.
Liestal
2008 - luckily we chose the right side of the street to stand.
Liestal
Liestal
Fire illuminates the late Gothic Rathaus.

Hardy souls go straight from Liestal to Basel for the 4 am Morgenstreich - the opening of Fasnacht.

Liestal
Liestal

 

Liestal

Video: Liestal Fire Festival

 

Cherry Blossom Time

cherry orchards

Basel-land is famous for its cherries and the beauty of its cherry orchards. In mid-April 2015 we decided it was about time we saw the orchards in full bloom so set out from our house to walk 3-4 km through the forest to the border with Canton Solothurn where there are orchards.

cherry orchards
Bee hives!
cherry orchards
cherry orchards
Sheep in the orchards.
cherry orchards
cherry orchards
cherry orchards
cherry orchards
Cows in the orchards.
cherry orchards
cherry orchards
cherry orchards

 

Rheinfelden (AG)

Rheinfelden
The Rhine at Rheifelden.

On the Rhine, just over the border in Aargau, is a pretty town, where there has been a settlement long before its formal foundation in 1130.3

Rheinfelden
Johanniter-Kappelle

Johanniter-Kappelle is a 15th century chapel of the Knights Hospitaller. Inside are a wonderful series of frescoes from the same era, depicting the Day of Judgement, with people emerging from the graves to be dragged away by devils to hell, or to enter heaven.

Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden
Storchennestturm - storks' nest tower.
Rheinfelden
Johanniter-Kappelle
Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden

 

 

There are lots of remnants of the old town including gates and towers, and plenty of places to get a bite to eat, especially nice if you can get a table at one overlooking the river.

Rheinfelden

 

 

Rheinfelden
Upper gate.
Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden
Rheinfelden
St. Martins-Kirche
This late Gothic church is mostly Baroque and Rococo inside.

 

Rheinfelden

 

Dornach (SO) Goetheanum

Goetheanum

So close, again just over the cantonal border, the Goetheanum is a highly acclaimed example of architectural expressionism. It, and several smaller buildings around it, were designed by Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Anthroposophical Society.6 The society advocates spiritual development through self knowledge.

The current cast concrete building, finished in 1928, replaced an earlier wooden building which burned down. It's certainly very striking and the use of colour inside is lovely.

Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum

 

Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum
Goetheanum

 

References

  1. Baselland Tourismus
  2. Michelin Guide to Switzerland, 1982
  3. Phaidon Cultural Guide to Switzerland, 1985
  4. Lonely Planet Guide to Switzerland, 6th Edition, 2009
  5. Augusta Raurica
  6. Anthroposophical Society